1. vicemag:

    This Week in Teens: Are America’s Teenagers Setting Themselves on Fire? 

    Teens are America’s greatest natural resource. They’re full of new ideas, smarter than ever, and not yet racked with cynicism and guilt. Some of the best things we’ve got—rock ‘n’ roll, energy drinks, hickeys—wouldn’t exist today were it not for teen demand. Not to mention that teens are sustainable; left unchecked, they’ll create more teens just over a dozen years. And yet, to reference a perennial college freshman favorite, the teens they are a-changin’.

    The global recession hit those on the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum the hardest. Part time employment and summer jobs are now harder to come by. Consequently, teen purchasing power is on the decline. Plus, teens are good at streaming things for free, and Macklemore made them think used clothes are funny, so they have less incentive to buy new things. At this point, it’s baby boomers who have the real discretionary income. As marketers catch up to this shift, the prized demographic will become those over 55. Our nation’s youth will be forced to adapt to their ever-evolving circumstances. Will teenage ingenuity emphasize their continued relevance? Or will our younger siblings collapse into a messy room of hormones, broken curfews, and not-yet-illegal drugs? It is with this background in mind that we launch a new column: This Week in Teens.

    Talking heads are going nuts over the Fire Challenge. Photo via YouTube

    -If there’s one thing teens love, it’s trends. And if there’s one thing local news stations love, it’s scaring people who think they might come into contact with teenagers (this is easy to do as teens are inherently terrifying). Combining these two passions is this week’s top news story: Teens are taking off their shirts, standing in the shower, pouring flammable liquids on their chests, and lighting themselves on fire. Sometimes the teens start flapping around—because of the fire, remember—before they can turn on the shower, and then the flames spread to their shorts or the shower curtain and they end up in the hospital with severe burns. It’s called the Fire Challenge mom, and it’s all done in the name of internet fame.


    I’m VICE’s new Teen Editor


  2. Social Media and Obfuscation

    Two things came up today that made me think about the way in which social media—and Twitter, especially—rewards obfuscation. More precisely, it frequently punishes people who say things a little too clearly. A lot of this has to do with technical aspects; character limits, for example, mean that a meandering, vague statement lacks the easily-spread punch of “We tortured some folks.” The constant stream means that, generally, only the most notable words get noticed. (I mean this in a literal sense: your eyes gloss over, so that if a few words don’t jump out, you literally don’t see it. Think about how you do this subconsciously all the time when you scroll through your Twitter feed, in the same way that your eyes never go to the parts of pages where banner ads live.) We’re now in an environment where when the president, while defending the CIA, admits that America tortured people, everyone focuses on his word for people instead the part where America, our country, tortured a non-singular number of people, and now the president admits it, and sure it was bad, but he still stands behind the people who did it. Yes, “folks” probably wasn’t the best option here, but like, how is that the thing you focus on! We! Tortured! Some! Folks. There are three more important words in that sentence. Imagine: "Honey, I need to confess something. Last weekend, after Shakespeare in the Park, I fingerblasted the babysitter." "You did what?!? I haven’t heard that term since 9th grade lol."

    Similarly, everyone was up in arms over a now-removed op-ed called “When Genocide Is Permissible.” Obviously the follow-up to that weirdly phrased almost-question should be “Never,” but: A) It’s been reported that as much as 95% of Israelis approve of their country’s actions in Gaza (I’m not sure it’s actually that high, but it’s clearly something with wide approval). B) The situation in Gaza already is, or is rapidly approaching, the standard definition of genocide (the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation). Which means that, in the minds of many of the people in Israel (and their supporters elsewhere), this genocide is permissible. One guy had the lack of PR sense to say what millions believe, and now, instead of being something we can point as evidence of the abject inhumanity of the situation, the post has been deleted. I’m not arguing people shouldn’t have been up upset about the article, but it’s so unfortunate that we’re coming to a world where you can do almost anything, so long as you make sure the verbs will be spread out over many long, boring sentences.

  3. Untitled (Landscape), 2014

  4. Oliver’s been a bad boy

    (Source: celebrityham)

  5. (Source: summeromegadeth)


  7. The Problem of the Community Board; or, How Activists Are Both Correct and Ruining My Twitter Time

    Let’s say you’ve opened up a store that you think is really cool. It’s your dream and you’ve personally customized every detail to your liking. From the name to the products to the layout and even down to the wallpaper, it’s all you. (For some reason your store mostly sells indie rock jokes, mid-level references to the literary canon, and celebrity puns, but that’s not really what matters here. It’s your store, traditional business models can’t stop it.)

    Everything’s going great, until one day someone comes in and says, “Excuse me, but my dog’s missing. Would it be a problem if I left a flyer here, just taped to the corner by the door, so that people see it when they leave? You’ve gotta understand, Higgins means the world to be.” You’d have to be heartless to say no. 

    The next day someone else comes in, and their son is dying of cancer, but it could be treatable—only they need to raise money for an experimental operation. Now you’ve already put up a flyer about a dog, so you really have no choice but to also put up the photo placard about their human son. 

    Because this is hypothetical, the world in which your store exists has an almost infinite number of other causes too, and they’re all deserving of a spot on your wall. Even though you try to only give space to the worthiest of issues, it isn’t long before you end up with a whole corner of your store covered in flyers. Every time you look over there you end up feeling depressed, reminded of how terrible the world can be.

    But you’re also just bummed, because this isn’t how you wanted your store to be, and you can’t really do anything about it. After all, it wouldn’t help if you told people that, “I support your cause—I really do. I just don’t want to display the poster.” That’d be inaction, and you know that inaction isn’t good enough. 

    It starts to feel like your whole store is dominated by these flyers. When customers come in to the store, they don’t want to talk about your jokes, or even their own lesser jokes. They want to talk about how terrible that news on the wall is. No one even notices the rest of the place; nothing you can do competes with the urgency of these flyers. You realize that discussing the issues at hand is way more important than whatever you wanted to go on about, but that doesn’t make you feel better. For you, it simply isn’t very fun to go to the store anymore. And whenever you’re tempted to complain about how little you enjoy working there, you rightly feel like a dick. 


  8. Sometimes I will have an opinion about an issue that—despite making sense to me in a measured, evidence-based way—seems like an opinion that only other white guys hold. When this happens, I try see where other people are coming from, and usually I can, but often it still doesn’t change my thoughts. So here’s what I do: I just don’t tell anyone about my white guy opinion. I don’t pretend to hold a different view; I don’t say anything at all about the thing. And no one ever asks! Then, after a few hours or a few days, I start to believe what I’ve always known: What I think doesn’t matter anyway and I didn’t care very much to begin with. You don’t have to write about everything! You don’t have to write about anything at all!

  9. One of the better internet things I did this year was ‘Like’ this Eminem fan group on Facebook. I’m not sure where or how I found it, but it’s been a consistent highlight of my online experience. It’s filled with memes that don’t quite get what the meme is, screenshots of people with Eminem shirts and posters, and constant requests that you ‘Like’ pictures in order to show that you like Eminem more than Justin Bieber or One Direction. The closest thing I can compare it to is a genuine version of @seinfeld2000, but with less emphasis on the spelling and grammar errors. I just noticed that the page says it’s based in Pakistan, but it could just as easily be from Peoria or Peru or a place that doesn’t start with P. The punctum is there for me, but I’m not posting this to suggest that you ‘Like’ the page yourself, as almost 3600 others have done; it’s not actually that interesting and it’s barely funny. Rather, I just want to reiterate something that I think we often forget in the era of Reddit and Twitter and websites that exist to post shareable things from Reddit and Twitter: the internet is still weird if you want it to be. It might not be as obvious as it once was—you might have to join a bodybuilding forum or dig around on Facebook or search for energy drink reviews on YouTube—but it’s there, just waiting for you to find it. And if you do find something that’s particularly good, maybe do yourself a favor: don’t tell us. 


  10. All the Books I Read in 2013

    The Woman in the Dunes – Kobo Abe

    Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe

    We Think the World of You - JR Ackerley 

    Speedboat - Renata Adler 

    Pitch Dark - Renata Adler 

    Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood

    Camera Lucida - Roland Barthes

    Wittgenstein’s Nephew – Thomas Bernhard 

    Collected Fictions - Jorge Luis Borges

    Between Parantheses - Roberto Bolaño

    Distant Star – Roberto Bolaño

    I Remember – Joe Brainard

    Watermark – Joseph Brodsky 

    Urn Burial - Thomas Browne

    Letters to Emma Bowlcut - Bill Callahan

    The Fall – Albert Camus

    Autobiography of Red – Anne Carson

    Red Doc> – Anne Carson

    What We Talk About When We Talk About Love - Raymond Carver

    All of Us: The Collected Poems – Raymond Carver

    Where There’s Love There’s Hate – Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo

    Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes

    The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler

    Falconer – John Cheever

    Jean Genet in Tangier – Mohamed Choukri

    Diary of a Bad Year - JM Coetzee 

    Notes from the Underground – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan

    The Sportswriter – Richard Ford

    Independence Day – Richard Ford

    Paris Stories – Mavis Gallant

    Ferdydurke – Witold Gombrowicz

    The Tin Drum – Gunter Grass

    Slow Homecoming - Peter Handke

    Short Letter, Long Farewell – Peter Handke 

    Don Juan – Peter Handke

    Repetition – Peter Handke

    In Love – Alfred Hayes 

    The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro 

    The Lottery and Other Stories – Shirley Jackson

    Train Dreams – Dennis Johnson

    My Struggle, Book 1: A Death in the Family – Karl Ove Knausgaard

    My Struggle, Book 2: A Man in Love - Karl Ove Knausgaard

    The Incredible Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera

    Death and the Penguin – Andrew Kurkov

    My Tender Matador - Pedro Lemebel

    Leaving the Atocha Station - Ben Lerner

    Taipei – Tao Lin

    Soul of Wood - Jakov Lind

    Tough Guys Don’t Dance – Norman Mailer

    The Skin – Curzio Malaparte 

    So Long, See You Tomorrow - William Maxwell

    Sputnik Sweetheart - Haruki Murakami

    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami

    The Beggar Maid – Alice Munro

    The Museum of Innocence – Orhan Pamuk

    The White House - Orhan Pamuk

    Istanbul - Orhan Pamuk

    Kiss of the Spider Woman - Manuel Puig

    The Bleeding Edge – Thomas Pynchon

    The African Shore – Rodrigo Rey Rosa

    Tenth of December - George Saunders 

    The Rings of Saturn - WG Sebald

    Unrecounted – WG Sebald

    Vertigo – WG Sebald

    By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept – Elizabeth Smart

    A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams

    To the Finland Station – Edmund Wilson

    The Waves  - Virginia Woolf

    Bonsai – Alejandro Zambra 

    Ways of Going Home - Alejandro Zambra

    If you want to talk about any of these that’d be cool.